By Amar Yumnam
The Head of the People of Manipur (read as Chief Minister) had recently reaffirmed in the floor of the house, where the paragons of democracy get exemplified, that there is no coordination in the various organs of his administration while exercising various governance responsibilities. Mind you, we have to take his words with all the possible values attached for he has been in the helm of affairs for more than a decade. Further the house acted aggregately in an area supposedly related to the “privileges” of the attendees consequent upon an arguable aptness of the description of the qualitative features of the attendees by a social articulator of issues in a discussion in a local television channel and irrespective of whether the very contextual issue one supports or otherwise.
But quite painfully unfortunate is the absolute silence and absence of demand for introspective debate by all when a much significant issue of polity – absence of coordination among the various organs of government while supposedly performing tasks in public interest – was being intimated by the politically most important person in the floor of the institution where the “privilege-aware” supreme protagonists of democracy are supposed to be gathering. Was it a case where the greed of anyone was not being questioned and ipso facto unimportant to demand further deliberation? Even more painful has been the failure of the fourth estate of the land to focus on this admission of a major governance weakness and arouse public debate.
Now one may ask me with every privilege one has at her command as to why this admission of governance failure is painful. I have quite a few worries which should disturb the mental peace and social existence of anyone in this land. Manipur has been politically a very disturbed province for more than a period of three decades. She has also witnessed a hugely deepening ethnic fractionalisation where the Nagas would think of Nagas as against others, and the Kukis and the Meeteis would also follow suit. These have led to a kind of scenario where collective actions have become vastly negative and violent in colour and approach; understandably so as these would always be the case anywhere in the world where armed groups are present. All these should necessarily have occupied the body and mind of the government on how to evolve policies and strategies for countering the negative trends in the society. The admission of absence of coordination among the organs of the government in attending to the responsibilities of governance and performing activities in supposedly attending to public interests attest to the fact that the needed and expected collective application of mind by the various organs of the government have not happened. In other words, the government has not risen to the occasion; the polity has not evolved towards a responsive and responsible one. It is a clear case where the politicians and the bureaucracy have failed to provide the administrative leadership they are supposed to be providing to the society.
This scenario further calls for another question to be raised as to why there is persistence of this. Here a study by a leading Japanese institutional economist, Masahiko Aoki, of the Japanese and the Chinese transition to modern states took place and just now made available has lessons to be learnt. He writes: “There can be various types of domains in a societal game depending on strategic interactions are mediated. Analogous to the contractual exchange of goods and money in the economic domain, emotion-inducing, action-eliciting linguistic utterances, symbolic behaviour, gifts, and so forth may be exchanged in the social-exchange domain to generate and sustain social norms, customs, and herd behaviour in others. In the political exchange domain ….. the government provides public goods, such as national and local security and protection of vested property rights, in exchange for tax payments so as to maximise its own payoffs, for instance prestige, sustained dominance, wealth-building, or monument-building.
In contrast, in response to government actions, individuals and organisations select actions from among yielding, colluding, approving, rejecting, revolting, and so on. A “stable equilibrium state” in this game ….is…the polity”. In a polity, the public would inter alia be “paying taxes if payment of taxes is enforced or trying to evade taxes if evasion is not detected..” Now when it comes to the prevailing scenario of Manipur, it is as if both the political class and the bureaucratic elite enjoy and thrive in the absolute absence of convergence and coordination among the various organs in order to fool the public eye for both isolated performance and failure; heads I win and tails you lose. It could be that the traditional institutional roots of social existence and polity have yet prevailed in Manipur and the modern democratic roots have not yet been established. Is it a case that the traditional social institutions create a facilitating environment for the agents in the government to forever indulge in greedy behaviour of rent seeking and all in the name of the governance? We all know that the perfection, purity, competence and performance of Sanamahi was made immaterial by the corruption between incompetent and non-performing Pakhangba and his mother. The performance and functioning of the Pakhangba seva committees, as I know them, today inherit the corruptibility and pretentiousness behind the method of Pakhangba coming to the throne. But this method can never be a genuine foundation for democracy to emerge in any society. But unfortunately Manipur seems to be under the spell of this institutional characteristic conveniently facilitating the government to be non-convergent when it comes to the performance of the various organs. But all these have been at the huge financial and development cost of collective advancement as any non-coordination compromises the quality and level of achievement while individualised and colluding benefits remain intact. No we cannot afford this to continue for long.